Indian Summer and thinking about Tennessee

As Indian Summer has arrived the nights are chilly but the days very hot. It's the time to clean up the garden and beds and prepare for the winter ahead. I can't help but think of my time in Tennessee at this time of year especially. I miss it.

The diversity of plants in the Smoky Mountains is hardly surpassed throughout the country. Every season has a display and there is no better time to visit than autumn. As it is diverse in plant species it is diverse in elevation. I drove into the Smokies in November to witness this array of colours. The mountains are so high that at the top I was barely travelling at 15 mph. The fog was thick and the road switching higher all the time.
There are 1600 species of flowering plants alone, including 100 native trees and over 100 shrubs.  There are 450 varieties of bryophytes which are the mosses, liverworts and hornworts and 50 ferns.

I miss the Smokies and forever thankful I had the opportunity to spend a few months in the South.


French Onion Soup for the Soul

You can see a pattern here. I am gradually coming back to my blog. More importantly as the season of the market ends I can come back to your blogs. You and I cannot imagine the work it is to be a farmers' market vendor. I am definitely making changes for next summer. First of all I will purchase another freezer. Since I make my doughs in advance and freeze them the extra storage space will allow me to make in advance so I can take a week off from preparation from time to time and have a life. The other item I am purchasing is a commercial mixer. To date everything has been mixed by hand ... breads, scones, pies. Granted everything cannot be done in a mixer but if I can even do half it will be a huge boost to my ever so tired arms and hands.

I loved this soup. It was inspired by a recipe from Chef Micheal Smith. I love my little Le Creuset individual cast iron pots. They make dinner service a classy event.

It's cooling down out there and warm food is coming into favour.

French onion soup
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 c. brandy or fortified wine such as Madeira
4 c. chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 slices hearty bread or large croutons
2 c. shredded Swiss, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese

Caramelize onions until they are a deep golden colour. Add brandy. Turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the additional liquid has evaporated.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 15 minutes or so.
To serve, preheat the broiler in your oven. Toast the bread slices to add flavour and help absorb the soup. Cut rounds out of the toast, large enough to fit your soup bowls.
Ladle the soup into four ovenproof serving bowls. Top each with a slice or two of toasted bread rounds, enough to cover the top of the soup. Cover the bread with an even mound of shredded cheese. Broil until the cheese has melted and browned. (Adapted from Chef Michael Smith)


Grilled Peaches & Serrano

I am looking back on summer. I had no time for blogging and even little time for experimenting with food. This is one of my favourites from August. I wish I had put it together earlier in the season. Nectarines would probably work as well. This clear white honey is acacia honey and has a decidedly neutral flavour that complements both the tartness and sweetness of the peach and the saltiness of the serrano. A few sprigs of fresh tarragon add a pleasing complexity. Even the burnt skewers add another layer of flavour.

I no longer peel my peaches in most uses. I like the added texture and appearance of the fuzzy skin. This is a nice addition to a charcuterie plate or a first course at a barbecue. Perhaps even brunch. I think I'll serve it at brunch. And yes, the peach has a tartness that comes with grilling.

Grilled Peaches & Serrano

fresh peaches, cut in thick wedges
serrano ham, thinly sliced
fresh tarragon
short wooden skewers

Wrap each peach wedge in serrano and secure with a wooden pick that has been pre-soaked in water for 30 minutes. Grill over medium hot charcoal on each side until grill marks appear. Plate and drizzle with your favourite honey. Garnish with fresh tarragon leaves.


Chanterelle and Corn Chowder

Wild chanterelles are the most coveted of mushrooms. They are delightfully aromatic, beautifully shaped and highly nutritious. They are picked from forests across the country between mid-July to mid-October but Saskatchewan chanterelles are special.
“They are premium because they grow in a semi-arid climate. Saskatchewan chanterelles are dry, perfect round shapes, small size, clean, velvet touch, and the aroma is unbeatable. You don't need to see them but you can smell them when you walk into the forest,” boasts Elisabeth Poscher, professional forager and owner of Prairie Infusions out of Love, SK.
Areas with more rainfall produce large, water logged, floppy chanterelles. Saskatchewan chanterelles are small and dry, because it rains briefly then it's dry, so they come in a hurry and then stay dormant in that shape until it rains again briefly, then they grow a bit more. The drier the climate the more concentrated the chemical compounds in the plant. That is why their scent and flavour are so intense.
Chanterelles are rich in carotenoids and Vitamin A, for eyesight and dry skin. Burbot liver and chanterelles have the most concentrated natural food sources of Vitamin D. Wild edible mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing properties. They enhance the immune system and assist in reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Elisabeth ships them from northern Saskatchewan all over the country and I was so glad I placed my order. This chowder is the perfect autumn lunch.
Chanterelle and Corn Chowder
2 strips smoked bacon, finely chopped
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium celery stalk, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
3/4 lb. chanterelles, coarsely chopped
 1 c. fresh corn kernels
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. fresh thyme, leaves only
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 small bay leaf
1 qt. mushroom or chicken stock
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice or more to taste 

Cook bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat until just starting to brown, 3-4 minutes, then add butter. When butter has melted, stir in onion, celery and garlic. Cook until tender and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add chanterelles and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes or until mushrooms are softened and tender. Stir in corn and potatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables in pot and stir to coat them with the flour. Add thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Add stock, stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove bay leaf. Stir in cream and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed. Makes 6 cups.


Early Frost and Harvesting my Herbs

 It's that time of year. The time when an early frost promises to decimate your garden. I should have harvested my herbs earlier but here I am holding out to the bitter end.

What would you do with these herbs? I have curly parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. The parsley will make a tabouli. What else!

I think I will make a grape and rosemary focaccia. Rosemary would be great dried so if I have any left over I'll dry it.

The thyme will also be great dried. I think I'll hang it to dry and save for winter roasts.

But what about the oregano and sage? I could dry the sage but the oregano isn't that highly flavoured. I could freeze it. What could I make with my fresh oregano and sage? Ideas welcomed.
These trimmings will go into my freezer bag for making stocks.


Dutch Baby Panckes

Brunch is a wonderful time to entertain friends. It can be easy on the budget, both time and money. It is easier to gather friends together. Just making some interesting and tasty food. This is a menu to save. Serve this with a fresh fruit compote or traditional maple syrup. Whipped cream adds a bit of specialness.
Our Cooking Light Supper Club does brunch this month. What a great collection of ideas....

Jerry at A Life, Lived – Savory Sausage Breakfast Rolls
 Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking – Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp
Val at More Than Burnt Toast- Mini Bacon and Potato Frittatas
Susan – Monkey Bread

Peach Dutch Baby Pancake

A Dutch baby is a puffy, baked pancake. Preheating the pan allows the batter to start cooking immediately and to puff up. It deflates the minute it comes out of the oven so serve quickly. This is nice with a fresh fruit compote or maple syrup and whipped cream.